Held at the charity’s home at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex, the event will, for the first time, be available as a live stream for those who cannot physically attend.
The free event, backed by media sponsor South East Farmer, takes place from 6pm to 10pm, with online access from 7pm to 9pm, and sets out to tackle a topic that reflects recent challenges including lockdown, declining mental health and environmental challenges.
Conference organiser Duncan Rawson, a Nuffield scholar sponsored by the society, explained: “For those of a certain age, the world sometimes seems unrecognisable. The so-called carefree days of our childhoods have been replaced with lockdowns, loss of freedoms, polarisation of debate, contradictions such as the rise of both obesity and poverty, declining mental wellbeing and climate change.
“For many, the pandemic has given them cause to take stock and ask questions about the lives we lead. It is no surprise that more people over recent months have turned to the countryside for solace.
“Faced with more time at home, many started to cook from scratch. Whether these trends continue as we (hopefully) head back to ‘normality’ is a moot point, but it does raise the question: ‘what is the role of agriculture in healing society?’
“Agriculture and those who work in this sector are in a unique position; not only do farmers and growers provide the food essential for our survival, they are also custodians of the natural environment that surrounds us. And this is an environment that is crucial in terms of mitigating climate change, feeding an ever more demanding population and, in more general terms, improving our overall mental and physical wellbeing.”
The conference has lined up a diverse set of speakers to help navigate through this challenging and complex subject. All speakers will deliver a short presentation before audience members are invited to pose questions in person or online through an interactive messaging panel.
Chaired by Anna Hill of Radio 4’s Farming Today, this year’s guest panellists are as follows:
- Barbara Bray MBE, Director of Alo Solutions Ltd, will present her thoughts on the nutritional challenges facing society and the role that agriculture has to play.
- Sir Charles Burrell, Owner of Knepp Estate, will talk about how rewilding has the power to create a more sustainable agriculture and the broader role it has in engaging society with the countryside.
- Dan Burdett, manager of two organic dairy farms, will discuss how regenerative farming practices can create greater resilience in our food supply chains.
- Robin Hobson, Chairman of Laurence Gould Partnership, will share his experience of working with young, disadvantaged people at Care Farm in West Sussex, and how the farm helps build confidence and self-esteem and encourages teamwork and independence.
The Farming Conference is held by the South of England Agricultural Society as part of its charitable remit to fund and support agricultural education and countryside learning.
The Society’s aims are to showcase agriculture, horticulture and the countryside through annual shows which raise funds for the provision of education, grants, awards, and bursaries for people with an interest or involvement in agriculture, horticulture and other land-based industries.
Although the farming conference is free to attend, visitors must register in advance via www.seas.org.uk/farming-conference .
For more information visit www.seas.org.uk or phone 01444 892700.